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The Comfort of Strangers
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Comfort of Strangers More at IMDbPro »

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8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A Movie That Should Never Have Been Made

Author: Eyal Allweil from Tel Aviv, Israel
31 August 2000

It's obvious that talent and effort went into the making of "The Comfort Of Strangers." It lovely photographing of Venice, the ominous atmosphere is well done, the acting is good, and it just seems so – well, pretty. The million-dollar question is, why? Is it supposed to be entertainment? It doesn't feel that way. And a good thing, too, because despite the tension, despite the suspense – the movie is too slow, too boring. I LIKE slow, psychological movies. But I couldn't help looking hopefully at my watch, over and over again. If you're after entertainment, watch something entertaining, watch something gratifying. No, `The Comfort of Strangers' feels like an art house movie. And despite my respect for artistic privilege, for self-expression – why make this movie? I disagree with the other reviews – this movie has nothing behind it, nothing. Is it aiming at realism? I hope not. Sure, much of the plot is conceivable. And a movie doesn't have to overtly portray its characters' motivations in order for the audience to believe that their behavior is legitimate – but that believability is a must. Much of this movie just appears ridiculous and gratuitous. Unconvincing. Things happen just because. A mix of realism and absurdity, perhaps? Let's assume so. But to what ends, what is being expressed, why? A comment on the English perhaps, or on Italians? On men, maybe? On life? On love? Don't expect anything sophisticated. Someone described this movie as confusing. It only becomes confusing if you assume, a priori, that because so much effort was put into it, it DOES has some sort of meaning, and try to understand what it is. But all it is is a mish-mash of themes whose sum, regretfully, is infinitesimal. What this movie does do, and do well, is shock you. But in a bad way. You know something terrible is going to happen, but you don't expect it to be so ridiculously unwarrantable. You assume that it will add some sort of coherence, significance, something at all, to everything that has preceded it. But exactly the opposite happens. Credibility is destroyed, and to make things worse, the movie goes on, dragging itself on and on, as if a renewed declaration of its insensibility is going to make things better, make you accept it as some sort of whole. It doesn't. You don't need to hear the policeman ask why – you are already asking a different question. Why has this movie been made?

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: markymark70 from Ireland
21 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had never heard of this film before I stumbled across it one evening. I am a big fan of Christopher Walken and noticed that Helen Mirren was in it too. Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson also star - so I assumed (wrongly) this would be worth watching.

It's not.

Set in Venice, we see a strained relationship between Everett and Richardson as a holidaying couple. They meet Walken one evening as they were looking for a bar, they have some drinks, Walken invites them to stay at his house and there they meet Mirren. I could elaborate more and even give the ending away (an ending that could not come soon enough) but even that would be a waste of time.

I cannot even explain the plot because it makes no sense. A bit like the dialogue too. Everett spends the whole time either walking (semi-bounding if you ask me - where did he learn to walk like that?) around with one hand in his pocket looking totally bored with everything or talking cack-handed, pompous rubbish. Richardson looks like she'd rather suck on a bag of lemons than be in this film and as for Mirren and Walken - why they ever signed up at all is beyond me. The dialogue is so bad - it has to be heard to be believed. One such example is Everett asks why Walken was secretly taking pictures of him before they met. Walken answers: "See that Barber Shop. My grandfather went to that Barber shop. My father went to that barber shop. I go to that barber shop." Then he turns to look at an island in the distance and says "See over there? That's Cemetery Island." Does a short snort and walks off screen - scene over. What????

This is a waste of time, energy, acting talent, anything else you want to throw in. Not worth watching even if you were given a free giant Pizza and a pint of Peroni to add to the Italian ambiance.

I would have given this film 0/10 if there was an option. Unfortunately, there wasn't. 1/10. Avoid like the plague.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

No comfort

Author: begob from The Undertow
4 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen this many times and always thought it a great film.

The story is adapted from McEwan, but I think he stole it from Don't Look Now, which is based on Du Maurier's short story.

Four actors playing their parts brilliantly. Richardson is great as the middle class optimist, Walken is nicely sociopath, and Everett plays the weak narcissist. But the whole thing comes together with Helen Mirren's speech about women's play acting.

Score is amazing. Location amazing. And the ending is so cruel - this is a horror film, because it takes you through the looking glass to a world where malevolence rules and there's nothing you can do about it.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Exceptional in setting and personages

Author: anonymous from Amsterdam
27 January 1999

One to see if you feel like a good, psychological character-based movie. Straight in your mind, a shot of disgust, beauty and affection combined. The setting is one to go to, the people are interesting and very real and yes; what can you say? Christopher W tells you he's one to watch. The story gives you a blow of inspiration and tells you what the extremes are of the society we live in ...

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Paranoid fantasies

Author: Nat Ehrlich from United States
31 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is beautifully made and well acted and scripted, but nonetheless I can't recommend it too highly because it is emblematic of the paranoia which is so prevalent in today's world. One gets to thinking that everything must end badly. Waiting around to see which of the protagonists will be killed, wondering IF there will be a killing, one is fascinated by the mystery, but it's a feeling similar to that of driving by an accident site and averting one's eyes...and at the same time, not averting one's eyes totally. Did it really happen? The brutality, suddenness, and finality of the murder that does take place, mixed with the ambiguity of time and person that pervades this film, makes it a memorable, and disturbing, experience.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

no idea what its about, but you know you have watched it.

Author: grunsel from United Kingdom
4 October 2002

This well made movie just twists and turns you around the dark alleys of the mind, much like the location of Venice in which it is set. Havent a clue what it about, but it prods a few raw nerves and gives you the corresponding jolts.

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5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A powerful mix

Author: edpetrus from San Francisco
25 December 2001

This is probably Walken's best performance ever. His character takes center stage. A complex personality leavened by the yeast of sadism.

Sexual dominance is his preferred game .. how will the unsuspecting English couple fare?

The setting is Venice, the music is moorish. The mix is powerful.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

entertaining but not good enough for the novel

Author: karcat_2003 from Mexico
26 August 2005

A good film a nice one to keep you entertained. I must admit that after reading Ian Mc Ewan's book I was really keen on watching the film. However after doing it I was somehow disappointed. Although the story is not badly adapted and the performances and cinematography are good as well I couldn't perceive in any moment the sadomasochistic relationships skilfully described in Mc Ewan's novel that made of it a thrilling story full of suspense and unexpected situations. On the contrary the story seems lighter than it is actually. Anyway the performances and the beautiful landscapes of Venice are some of the elements that make of it an enjoyable film.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Schrader gives probably the best movie-adaptation from one of our time's most witty and wicked writers.

Author: Luca G from Modena, Italy
7 October 1998

McEwan's novel was placed in a not-better-defined hot town by the sea. Director Schrader decides to place the story in a cold and foggy Venice. Surprisingly, this choice sorts its aim, probably thanks to the pendant given by Walken's icing looks and Everett's cold English beauty. So, the atmosphere around the plot is completely different from the novel to the movie, but the perfect morbid reaction is the same. The unstoppable gain of sickness of the book is perfectly intact on screen. Schrader gives probably the best movie-adaptation from one of our time's most witty and wicked writers.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Let us now praise dull, inert movies

Author: T Y from United States
2 May 2007

This film established for me conclusively that Paul Schrader was an aesthetician rather than a thoughtful artist, after other stylish trips into the lives of drug-dealers, gigolos, etc. Not in the same way that Michael Mann is, but, well...

For a period in the early nineties I noted that the movies which provided insufficient answers and portrayed unlikeable characters would first p*ss me off, and then draw me back in after a month or so to reinspect it for evidence I'd missed; Plenty, Comfort of Strangers, others.

While ambiguity can be stimulating, this seems to be just a tease. Either the characters in this world are operating according to some undisclosed rule, or some obscure theme links it all. I have what I believe is an accurate thesis about why this numb, vacationing English couple endures the awful Walken and Mirren more than once, but it's facile and barely worth pursuing as a discussion or as a movie.

Beyond the triumvirate (Schrader, MacEwan, Pinter) working overtime to be inscrutable, Rupert Everett fails to bring his A game to this, or engage with anyone; Richardson, the schoolgirls, his inexplicably peevish orders not to scratch. There's also some strange gay intertextuality in Everett's casting, as a straight man who unwittingly becomes the target of another (ostensibly) straight mans attention. Not since Quentin Crisp played Queen Elizabeth will you have been this confused. No, it wasn't well-known at the time that Everett was gay, but Schrader would have known. Perhaps it's a short list of young straight British actors who look terrific unclothed as the script requires here. The deliberately unengaged quality of the couple is not served well by Everett's lack of engagement due to being gay playing straight. This layering conflates the themes and causes really mixed results; readings are muddied almost immediately.

But I'm very aware and appreciative of the beautifully designed camera work; the linking shots, establishing shots, and of course long developed sequences are among the most beautiful pieces of celluloid I've ever seen. Ditto for Badalamenti's ravishing, ominous score.

There are some beautiful, filmic moments in it. Robert loses the cameras attention in the middle of his tiresome story and we go for a trip around a swank bar. At first there are only men (oh, it's gay bar...) then a man applies chap stick, then a mannish woman flirts with a guy (hmmmm... it's not a gay bar), then an isolated red, curly-haired woman is dwelled on. I have no idea what it means and what Schrader was out to achieve but the sequence stays with me in a way the more narrative pieces of the film just sit there. Perhaps in another better movie it would add up to more. Here these moments just seem to fight the narrative.

After twelve years of scouring this movie for meaning, I give up. It's just not satisfying as a story, a parable, etc.. This is a frustrating, zero-steps-forward-two-steps-back endeavor. Together novelist McEwan, screenwriter Pinter and director Schrader crafted an emotional fog of a movie that deliberately posits problematics, but hints at few answers. Colin and Mary's six or seven scenes of idle chatter are badly directed and positively grating, something to be endured rather than enjoyed; consuming the dramatic arc alive. You could mix the scenes up and play them in any order you like and you still couldn't develop a viewers interest.

For deliberate ambiguity played well, just rent Last Year at Marienbad.

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